Necessary but Not Sufficient
First, a potluck supper with some Friends I don’t see often enough and some new-to-me people. The house was packed. I didn’t count but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were 50 people there.
Followed by two hours of semi-programmed worship. I would happily have continued in worship much longer – I don’t think the Holy Spirit was done with us by any means. But I had to take my kids home, so I was glad it ended at 9 pm anyway. Well, the meeting for worship ended. The conversations were still going strong when we left.
On that note, why am I (and my husband) the only one who brings her kids to stuff like this? In fact, it worked out pretty well for them. They got to eat what they wanted at the potluck, see and talk to some people they know, sing with the group, pet cats, do their homework and stay up a little (but not too, too) late. On the whole, not such a bad deal from their perspective. It’s important to me that they ARE part of the Quaker community, and the only way to really be part of something is to show up.
For me it was nice that I went, not as a part of my job, but just as a Friend in the community. So I feel like I can write about it here in a different way than if I had been working. On the other hand, I don’t go anywhere anymore without my official (but metaphorical) hat and I know that. Still, probably half the people there didn’t know I was wearing it, and the ones who did know, didn’t care. I’m glad that’s possible.
But, back to what actually happened. There was some singing at the beginning, and then there were three visiting Friends who were asked to prepare a message, and then the rest was unprogrammed worship, with some Bible reading, some more singing, and a variety of messages. It was nice. I enjoyed it. I was not transformed in any noticeable way. Other people seemed generally pleased, some more than others, of course. I think the difference is that it wasn’t exciting to me in the way new things often are, because I’ve done stuff like this before. I asked Chris, “So am I just jaded?” And he said, “Yes.” It reminded me a lot of the convergent dinners that I helped organize over the course of a few years, or the dinners after Quaker Heritage Day. (See SF, LA, Newberg, Berkeley, Boston, Indiana, Baltimore, Berkeley, Philadelphia).
Another key is not to have too high of expectations. As George Fox learned, when we are hoping for too much from other people, we are often disappointed and disillusioned. If calling it a revival means you’re expecting Azusa St. all over again, you’re going to be sorry. But if you’re open to what the Holy Spirit has to offer in the moment, you will be refreshed.
The important point is that evenings like this shouldn’t be a one time event. They should be a semi-regular event in the life of all Quaker communities. Any time a traveling minister is visiting – the community should gather like this. And that is how we revive ourselves. Revival is not a once and for all kind of event. It is the regular infusion of energy, not in the slow trickle of everyday life, but in cloudbursts of the Holy Spirit among us.
The long-term transformation of lives really happens in the steady flow of service and forgiveness and patience and commitment that we experience in our local meetings. But we need the little jolts of enthusiasm that come from really inspired preaching. We need the friendships and connections that are built in an evening like this. It brought together Friends from several worshipping communities in the area, who live too far apart to do this every week, but ought to know one another in the way of extended family. That too makes a difference over time. The ministry that comes out speaks to different people each time.
It may have been a little gimmicky to call it a Quaker Revival. But it got people to come – a wide range of Friends from 20 miles around. Plus the Holy Spirit. For that, let us be truly thankful.
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